In 2011, Dina Shaaban, then a naive twenty-year-old, now a seasoned community organizer, stumbled upon a Nubian cultural festival while promenading on Cairo’s corniche. As she tells it, this chance encounter catalyzed her Nubian awakening. Why did she know so little about the history of her people, whether ancient or modern? How could she empower young Nubians like herself to learn more about their distinctive traditions and languages? And what resources and strategies could she marshal to effectively and affectively narrate Nubia with all its nuances to fellow Egyptians whose first reaction to her darker skin is that most exclusionary of small-chat queries, So where are you from?

To narrate Nubia is to dwell in the inadequacies of that question. Nubia subverts the conventional, political, and scholarly assumptions that separate the Arab world from Africa, that distinguish “North Africa” from “sub-Saharan Africa,” for the lived realities of Nubian Egyptians refuse to map onto any neat axes of culture, history, or economy. In postcolonial Egypt there were and are Nubian pan-Arabists and Nubian pan-Africanists, Nubian Islamists and Nubian communists, Nubian revolutionists and Nubian statists.